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[511] Here was a universal panacea for all our ills. Here was a key to unlock all riddles. Take these iron-clads, says the Navy Department, knock Sumter into a brick-pile and sail proudly up to demand the surrender of Charleston.

Indeed, so preposterously did the Government regard tile matter, that it was not even thought necessary to have a cooperating land expedition. It will astound the country to learn that the whole force which General Hunter could spare from his limited command was under seven thousand men! Of course he could do nothing against the force ready to oppose him. From information I received from the Spanish Consul, who came out from that city a few weeks ago, the rebel troops for the defence of Charleston numbered at the time fifty-five thousand men, and their railroad facilities would easily enable them, in twenty-four hours, to bring the force up to a hundred thousand. General Hunter frankly told Admiral Du Pont that he could do nothing to aid him. He could garner in what the navy reaped, but he could do nothing in the heat and labor of the field. The military force, indeed, never got any further up than Stono Inlet, a dozen miles from Charleston harbor, where it was to effect a landing on Folly Island for the purpose of making a diversion. I can make no report of what was done, if any thing, but it had no direct bearing on the business in hand. Thus left alone, the naval chief had eleven hundred men, (the whole force of the iron fleet,) with which to take and hold a dozen forts! Could the ecstasy of folly further go?

These intimations, however, will overshoot the mark if they convey the impression that Admiral Du Pont lacked faith in the enterprise, or that he entered upon it unwillingly. It was, in fact, no case for either a blind faith or an unreasoning skepticism. Too little was known, as well of the real character of the rebel defences as of the true merits of the iron-clad vessels, to justify the one attitude or the other. It was absolutely necessary to try certain experiments as the basis of any definitive plan of siege — for it was never thought it would be less than a ten days affair. The operations of yesterday, therefore, may be regarded in the light of a reconnoissance. The reconnoissance resulted in a repulse, though not a disaster. That it was not so is due to the admirable skill of our naval leaders. In the process we have learnt valuable lessons. And now it remains true to-day as ever, that Charleston may still be successfully assailed. But that will begin to be possible for us when, casting off childish illusions as to special arms, an adequate expedition shall be sent, military as well as naval, and in which the navy shall only be required to play its legitimate part.


As one of the leading actions of the great rebellion, the battle of Charleston harbor passes into history and takes its place there. As a contribution to the world's experience in the art of iron-clad warfare, it passes into science and opens an epoch there.

So far as the public are concerned, it might be well to postpone conclusions; but people will draw them, and perhaps hastily and unjustly. It would be quite in the natural order of those violent oscillations to which public temper is subject, that the disposition to see in iron-clads every imaginable virtue, should give place to a disposition to see in them every imaginable vice. And yet both judgments would be equally unjust. In the mean time, it is a compensation to believe that the inventive heads that have already been engaged in the construction of iron-clads, may find, in tile results gained by this experiment, material for more perfect realizations in the new naval architecture.

There is one induction at least which our yesterday's experience in Charleston harbor authorizes us to draw. It is that the true way to fight iron-clads is by obstructions rather than by artillery; or perhaps we should say by obstructions affording concentration, continuity, and terrific accuracy and effect to the force of artillery.

And there is another truth which it teaches, and which cannot be better formulated than it is in a statement of Sir Howard Douglas--one of the last opinions put on record by that great naval authority: “There is no telling what gun-powder can do.” The rebel artillery practice certainly drew on its resources to an extent hitherto unparalleled in warfare.

The presence in the fight of three distinct types of iron-clads, represented by the monitors, the Keokuk, and the Ironsides, affords an interesting means of comparing the relative merits of the different models.

The test is, however, hardly a fair one, as some of the vessels were much more exposed to fire than others. It would have been interesting, for example, to have seen how the Ironsides would have behaved under the amount of fire received by the Keokuk, and under the same range at which she was placed. This would also have afforded the means of testing the relative strength of continuous and of laminated armor — the plating of the Ironsides being one single four and a half inch mass of wrought-iron, and that of the monitors in series of one-inch plates. So far as one may be justified in drawing an induction from a limited range of facts, the advantage would seem to incline to the continuous thick plating. The exposed, overhanging port-covers, employed both on the Ironsides and Keokuk, and which in the case of both ships were in several instances shot away, appears to be an undeniable weakness.

The riddling of the armor of the Keokuk's turrets, which consist of five and three fourths inches of iron, presents a striking proof of the penetrating power of the improved modern pro-jectiles; and the effect produced by the square-headed and steel-pointed shot would seem to justify all that has been anticipating of their power.

As to the monitors, there can be little doubt

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